Classics: O’Jays – Back Stabbers (Philadelphia International Records)
Never trust a pretty face is pretty much the theme of ‘Back Stabbers’. A song talkin’ about men’s male reputedly friends who may smile to their faces, but are secretly planning to steal their wives or girlfriends.
‘Back Stabbers’ opened the path to an impressive series of hits for McFadden & Whitehead as songwriters. With the twosome initially thinking about their own group – Talk Of The Town – to sing it. PIR label heads, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff had other plans though, preferring give it a try with The O’Jays. The rest being history with Eddie Levert & Co scoring one of their biggest successes ever with it. Standing as a source of inspiration for countless artists. From MFSB who gave it an instrumental cover version the year after. To TLC who sampled it on ‘Case Of The Fake People’ from their 1994 ‘CrazySexyCool’ album. But also Angie Stone who interpolated it on ‘Wish I Didn’t Miss You’, from her 2001 ‘Mahogany Soul’ album…
– Fellow high school students Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, Bobby Massey, Walter Powell and Bill Isles first sang together as The Triumphs then The Mascots in the early 60’s. They would get their final name as a tribute to Eddie O’Jay, a Cleveland-based DJ who helped them dropping their first release…
The O’Jays would reach their peak along with producers Gamble & Huff who signed them to their P.I.R. label in 1972. A liaison which led to countless classics. From ‘Love Train’ to ‘Back Stabbers’ that same year. To ‘Now That We Found Love’ and ‘For The Love Of Money’ in 1973. ‘Livin’ For The Weekend’,‘I Love Music’ and ‘Give People What They Want’ in 1975. This in addition to ‘Message In Our Music’ and ‘Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby’ the year after. Not to mention ‘Put Our Heads Together’ in 1983.
The end of the 80’s eventually saw them switching to EMI-America. One of their ultimate tracks worth the listen from then being the vibrant ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ with remixing work courtesy of Tony Humphries.
– Olanta, SC native Gene McFadden and John Whitehead met in Philadelphia during their school days in the 60’s. Together, they formed The Epsilons along with Lloyd Parkes who later joined Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.
When Otis Redding came to the city, he invited them to become part of his revue. This leading them to set up a deal with Stax Records where they released ‘The Echo’.
After the departure of Parkes, they started working with Gamble & Huff on their North Bay label. Then soon after on their PIR label where they mostly worked as songwriting and production team. Eventually becoming to Philadelphia International Records what Holland/Dozier/Holland happened to be to Motown.
They wrote and / or produced an incredible amount of standards. From ‘Back Stabbers’ for The O’Jays’ to ‘I’ll Always Love My Mama’ for The Intruders. But also ‘Wake Up Everybody’ for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. Or ‘Style Of Life’ for The Jacksons. Not to mention ‘The More I Get The More I Want’ for Teddy Pendergrass. And ‘Let’s Groove’ for Archie Bell & The Drells to name a few.
As artists, they scored their biggest classic with the uplifting ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’, from their eponymous debut-album in 1979. A song soon after given a Rap/spoken word version by Douglas ‘Jocko’ Henderson (‘Rhythm Talk’). But also a Spanish one by Charanga 76 titled ‘No Nos Pararan’. It most likely also had a big influence on Italian Disco classic ‘Ma Quale Idea’ by Pino D’Angio the year after. With Stan Mosley addin’ his name to the list. Meanwhile givin’ it an extra cover version 38 years later.
Away from PIR, they also worked with luminaries such as Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson and Beau Williams among others. They eventually recorded a new version of ‘Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now’ back in 1984 for Sutra Records.
On May 11, 2004, John Whitehead was shot dead while fixing a car outside his home in Philadelphia, in an apparent case of mistaken identity. He was 55. The case remains unsolved…
Gene McFadden sadly died of liver and lung cancer on Jan. 27, 2006. He was 56.
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